Why you should travel more and buy less.

I wholeheartedly believe there is a distinct difference between travelling and being a tourist. Tourism is a commercial product. I liken it to that of holding a movie pass. You’re experiencing something different without ever actually leaving your comfort zone. It’s safe. It’s easy. Travelling, on the other hand, has a lot more to do with exploring and immersing yourself into a time, place and culture that you don’t understand. Travelling is a mindset that you want to be as much a part of your destination as it is a part of you.

Big cities might be filled with tourists, while travellers are those who follow the less beaten paths of this globe. The rewards might be great in either category, depending on what you’re looking for, but I happen to be a firm believer in travel over tourism. If you’re going to take the time and money to go somewhere – truly go there. Immerse yourself in the adventure.

  1. Step outside of your comfort zone. Travelling allows one to leave order and conformity and move towards the unknown. Pushing yourself out of that comfort zone can teach you just how far into the unknown you’re willing to go and just what potential you might be capable of.
  2. Escape your routines. Use travel as a tool to beak your behavioural patterns that keep you in the ‘daily grind’. Travel can provide that much needed escape from the world you hold so dear, but need a break from every now and again to avoid burnout. Scheduling your travels gives you something to look forward too and allows you to know when your next break is coming, when your next escape is waiting.
  3. It’s a free education. The last thing that you want to do is travel with the belief that you know everything. You’ll be shocked by your own ignorance. There’s too much to this world that you don’t know and haven’t learned yet. Travelling gives you an opportunity for that education that a classroom can’t teach and it also shows you just how much you don’t know.
  4. You’re exposed to new ideas and beliefs. While people often fear what they don’t know, or don’t understand, travelling puts you into situations where you’re forced to see these circumstances firsthand, witnessing that which can forever change you from there on out.
  5. The more you explore, the more you realize how complex human life is. And it’s hard to acknowledge that so few people will get to experience/know that within their lifetime.
  6. It increases your problem solving skills. It can be easy at home to go about your day in the same monotonous way as you’ve done over and over before. Drop yourself in a new location in a part of the world and you’ll be faced with a need to solve problems you’ve never faced in your daily grind. Reading a map in a foreign language is a problem that you’re going to have to learn to solve.
  7. Experiences come with expiration dates. This one is important. Who you are right here and now is not who you will be after you get married or have children or go through other changes in your life. The way that you experience a country/place/destination right now won’t always be the same. Someone who’s just out of highschool, backpacking through Europe will experience it in a completely different way than a retired couple. That’s not to say you won’t enjoy a trip when you’re a retired couple with your spouse, that’s just to say – are you really ready to give up on the experiences you could be having right now for the one day? For the some day?

Honestly, I’d take experiences over new shoes any day. I’m a firm believer in the statement ‘Collect Moments, not things’. Furthermore, moments and memories are the only form of wealth you can gain that give yourself that doesn’t diminish in time.

There’s so much more to travel than seeing a landmark or taking a selfie in front of a monument. Don’t get me wrong – those moments are pretty great too. Everyone needs a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower. But, for me, the importance of travel is about who you become when you go to a place, the person that you get to be and the person you transform into based on the situations you’re immersed in.

There’s really, genuinely important reasons for you to squander away your extra money. There’s a whole world out there to see. And yes, there are some material things in life that are important for you to purchase. But I guess, the point of this ramble from me is that there are so many important reasons to start putting that money aside and to be saving it for your next adventure.

Travel Diaries: Las Vegas in photos

These photos were taking during my trip to Las Vegas in November 2018, for my 30th birthday. It was technically “winter” in Las Vegas, so a lot of attractions were closed. But, it was still pretty epic for a first time in Vegas. And, it was fun watching so many people wander around in down jackets when us Canadian’s felt like it was summer.

We ended up with super cheap flights (I think due to it being off season), so it was a cheap, but epic, 30th birthday.

I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend the New York New York Hotel and Casino to anyone looking to stay on the strip. It’s centrally located, really well priced and the hotel has a lot of amenities in it.

There’s nothing like 20 degree heat in the middle of winter. I was loving it. And honestly, having never been to Vegas before, the fact that this was all one hotel truly amazed me. I can’t even fathom which tower I was staying in. And that coaster, THE HOTEL HAS A FREAKING ROLLER COASTER.

The most divine gluten free, dairy, free, allergy free sandwich from Greenberg’s Deli. Seriously, if you have any dietary restrictions, this place is such a good spot for eating.

The M&M Store had a wall that my OCD dreams were made of. Seriously, staring at this photo gives me as much joy as staring at this wall did when I was in store.

Freemont Street. Oh, what can I say about Freemont street? It’s true what they say. It really is unlike any other place on earth. The zipine was epic. The people were interesting and the sights were inspiring. I definitely recommend taking a trip off the strip to anyone who visits Vegas. Freemnt Street is a must see.

I can’t even tell you what this was (which I feel like happened a lot while I was in Vegas) but dang was it good. All the food in Vegas was amazing.

We actually had some friends show us around town and honestly, I think that Old Vegas attracted me as much as the Strip did. It fascinated me that people live and work in Vegas and it’s the kind of place that’s normal for them. I think it’d be really cool to live there.

And the Gondola. I didn’t actually ride on the Gondola, but I was pretty fascinated by it, and this hotel. This photo was taken at 2 am. And it looks like the middle of the day because the ceiling is so realistic. The shopping in this hotel was also splendid. It filled my spendy heart!

Travel Diaries: I’ve been waiting ten years to do this.

Sometimes in life there are things that you want to do, that you know you want, but that you cannot get to. Either the circumstances won’t allow it, or the timing isn’t right, regardless, you get to wait and hope.

Nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies is Abraham Lake. Abraham Lake is an artificial lake on the North Saskatchewan River lining the David Thompson Highway between Saskatchewan River Crossing and Nordegg. It was created in 1972 with the construction of the Bighorn Dam. Although man-made, it still possesses the blue colour of other glacial lakes in the Rocky Mountains.

Within the lake itself is a naturally occuring source of methane. During the winter, when the lake freezes over, methane bubbles from the lake’s bottom are released and get trapped in the ice as they escape to the surface. This causes the incredible sight of thousands of tiny little bubbles trapped within the ice all over the lake. Tourists flock from all over the world out to see this phenomenon, go for a walk on the lake, and see how well they can capture the bubbles.

Though it’s not actually that far from where I live, timing has never allowed me to get out there. Until this past weekend, that is.

Audi A4 2.0T Komfort Quattro

Knight and I got behind the wheel of an Audi A4 Komfort Quatro and headed for the Rockies. (Side Note – I am quickly becoming an Audi person. These cars are brilliant, luxurious, and so user friendly. I am grateful for the opportunity to test drive it)

When you see the lake, it’s absolutely breathtaking. The scenery is second to none, with the image of the lake surrounding by densely packed forests and skyscraping majestic mountains is something that will be forever ingrained in my memory.

I would reckon the ice itself was about six feet thick at this stage. The weather here has been exceptionally cold this winter, so no one was afraid to walk out there.

We made our way down the hill to the lake itself and went hunting for bubbles. What we ended up finding was cooler than I could ever describe in words.

The bubbles were everywhere. They’d literally been trapped all over the lake. We walked out pretty far and noticed the change in the colour of ice (change of thickness comes with change in colour) but alas, the methane bubbles were caught trying to burst through.

There were spots where the ice had cracked and pushed up. The pieces of ice were so thick and so dense, it was hard to imagine and I was seeing it with my own eyes.

Honestly, I loved it. I loved every second of it. I can understand why people come from near and far to see this place.

On the way home we ran into some mountain goats licking the sale off the highway. They were pretty cute, and pretty docile as well.

I really didn’t want to have to give the Audi back. It’s a beautiful car. It’s so user friendly, and so… easy to drive. Plus it looks pretty EVERYWHERE. Even when it’s covered in road salt from the Canadian highways.

Audi A4 2.0T Komfort Quattro

If anyone is ever in Alberta, Canada in the winter and wants an adventure, I highly recommend renting a car and taking it out to Abraham Lake. Don’t purchase a tour from one of those companies. They’re horrendously overpriced (I saw online that they’re charging tourists $340 per person just to drive you to the lake!) and way to regimented. Rent a car, go for yourself! Take the time you want and witness the magic that is Abraham Lake.

The BEST places to see in Canada.

Growing up in Canada you kind of, sort of, might start to believe that what you see all around you is what everyone gets to see. That everywhere is as beautiful as you have it and that the sights you’ve come to call home are sights that others get to call home as well. It’s a naive way of thinking, but some would say we’re pretty sheltered up here anyways.

I started travelling when I got to University and it was at that point that I realized that not everyone gets to see what I see.

And don’t get me wrong, every place has a beauty about it in its own way, but I happen to be a little bit biased in my belief that Canada is ‘next-level’ on the spectrum of beautiful places in this world.

Some of these photos were taken by me, some of them I’ve found online. About two years ago my house was broken into – stolen was all of my electronics including a laptop that contained pictures of all of my travels – so if a photo was taken by me then it’s been in the past two years that I’ve been. And if it’s credited to someone else, I wanted to show the beauty but no longer have my photos. Insert sad face for stolen computer.

Here are a few places I’ve been that I think everyone needs to see:

LAKE LOUISE

Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Picture the most beautiful, pristine lake that you could possibly imagine, surround it by escalating mountains covered in snow, fields of green and one of the most expensive hotels in Canada to stay at, and that is the luxury that is Lake Louise.

Visit in the winter for walking, skating, skiing or snowshoeing on the lake itself. In late January each year they host the ‘Ice Magic Festival’ where artists create incredible sculptures of ice that stay until they melt.

Visit in the spring, summer or fall for some of the most turquoise blue waters you’ll ever see. There’s a trail around the lake for you to walk, if you so feel the desire for exercise, and if you’re really an outdoorsy person, you can hike up some trails on those mountains at the far side of the lake for some pretty exceptional views.

Any way that you look at it, Lake Louise is a must see.

Photo: British Columbia Magazine

VANCOUVER

I actually grew up in Vancouver, so this one has a strong bias for me. This multicultural maven of a city is just as beautiful as it looks. Situated almost perfectly between the Coast Mountains and Pacific Ocean, it really doesn’t matter which way you look in this city you will see a beautiful view.

If you prefer the city life you can wander down city streets staring up at skyscrapers from every angle, drinking some of the best coffee in the world and shopping in stores to suit any budget. There’s a cafe on every corner, a ‘sorry eh’ at every passing and not enough time in a day to see the multifaceted face that makes up its downtown.

And if you much prefer a nature, Vancouver is filled with parks and natural landscapes that allow you to get out and roam, ride a bike, go to the beach, hike a mountain, walk through the forest… all in the same day. I recommend the Grouse Grind. But, there’s much to do in this city, and I strongly recommend you try it all.

Photo: ME

ANCIENT FOREST

In Northern British Columbia, about an hour’s drive from Prince George, you will find the entrance to the ‘Ancient Forest’. This several kilometer hike is through the largest Ancient Inland Rainforest in the world. Trees are much like those you would see in the Redwoods National forest in that they’re more massive than you could possible dream up, and they’ve likely been there for thousands upon thousands of years. The densely packed plant-life shelters you from weather (the trees are so thick you cannot feel rain) and the beauty is unimaginable.

Photo: Styleathome.com

OLD TOWN, QUEBEC CITY

If you want a true feel for French-Canadian culture, Quebec City is the place to find it. With a mixture of old-world charm, quaint city streets lined with history and the smells of amazing food pouring out of the shops and restaurants surrounding you, Quebec City feels a lot like a European destination in Canada.

While you’re here, try the poutine, it’s better than anything else on earth.

NORTH OF 60 (YUKON, NORTHWEST TERRITORIES, NUNAVUT)

Photo: travelzoo.com

As someone who’s been lucky enough to visit the Yukon, Northwest and Nunavut territories, I’m leaving this one open and saying they’re all worth the time if you’ve got it. Honestly, north of the 60th parallel is a whole different world in Canada. In the summer the sun doesn’t set and in the winter the sun barely rises. It’s a way of life the locals are accustomed too and the tourists are fascinated with when they witness it.

For no other reason, I recommend the trip for the Northern Lights. Watching Aurora Borealis dance across the midnight sky is unlike any other experience you will ever have. You can rent some snowmobiles and take them out into the middle of nowhere (for fun) and for better views of the lights by night, or, in summer, you can go golfing at midnight.

I wish more people would make it farther north. It’s expensive, don’t get me wrong. But it’s well worth the experience if you ask me.

Photo: Wildlife Worldwide

PRINCESS ROYAL ISLAND – THE GREAT BEAR RAINFOREST

No, that’s not a polar bear you’re looking at. That’s the elusive kermode ‘Spirit Bear’ who calls the rainforests of British Columbia’s coastline home. Princess Royal Island as a unique little fishing destination nestled in the coastline islands of British Columbia.

Fun fact: Twelve of the 17 crew of U.S. Air Force 44-92075 were found alive here in 1950, during the first lost nuclear/Broken Arrow episode of the Cold War. 

The Island is a protected zone by the World Wildlife Fund for having one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Animals you’ll find in these forests: black bears, grizzly bears, deer, wolves and foxes, and nesting populations of golden eagles, bald eagles, and the endangered marbled murrelet. 

If you ever want to feel at one with nature, it’s a difficult place to get to, but once you’re there, it’s worth every second.

Photo: Bay of Fundy Tourism

HOPEWELL ROCKS – BAY OF FUNDY

You might have seen these rocks before in photos for weddings or engagements, or just plain instagram swoonworthy photographer shots. People largely flock to these rocks out of fascination, but stay for the peace, serenity and beauty that is the area when they get there.

A few years back I got to go to the Bay of Fundy for a work project and I’ve got to say, the way the tide rolls in and swallows up the beach, making those rocks look like they pop out of the ocean is pretty cool to see. Thinking back on it, I wish I could take a camera and take a time lapse of the tide rolling in. Something tells me it would make an incredibly satisfying video. Nevertheless, I am rambling.

If you’re ever on the East Coast, check out Hopewell rocks. Take some beautiful photos and take some lunch. As a girl who grew up next to the pacific can tell you, there’s a certain peace to the Atlantic Ocean air that will make your whole day melt away.

Photo: National Geographic

FOGO ISLAND, NEWFOUNDLAND

When I think of Fogo Island, I am most sad that I no longer have my old computer with all of my photos on it. (Important interruption: print your photos, boys and girls. Or, at the very least, save them to an external hard drive) Fogo Island is my definition of peace. You go there to escape the world, and when you’re there, you really do. It’s just you, some Newfies you can hardly understand because they talk so fast, and the ocean.

If you’re ever wanting a dream get away for inner peace and calm, Fogo Island is the place to go. I would love to wander those rocks again. To just take some time for me.

Choosing to save your money for travel.

When you make the commitment to travel, you make a commitment to forgo other things in life in order to travel. At least, if you’re the majority of the population that’s the case. Some people are born independently wealthy (I’m jealous of you if you are/were) and don’t have to worry about saving money, but for the rest of us, the fact is, we have to plan if we’re going to see the world.

For me, the prospect of travel is an important one. I want to run away on my long weekends rather than staying home. I want to say that I’ve been to all of the continents and keep a running tally of all the countries I’ve visited. I want to collect tiny a vile of sand from every beach I visit. To do this, I knew I needed to get serious about my finances.

I’m quite lucky in that, in spite of not being employed presently, I still have a couple of trips on the docket for 2019. When you’re going to travel the world, here are some realistic tips for saving your money because, after all, it’s better to save your money to have more to spend there!

  • Meal Prep. Meal prep is helpful because it causes you to make use of the food that you already have. If you’re eating the food that you have prepped in your fridge already, you’re not going to be tempted to eat out – thus saving that money. Take that money you would have spent on your fast food dinner and put it in your piggy bank. Literally. Furthermore, if you’re meal prepping you’re making better use of the groceries that you purchase and therefore you will find your grocery bill going down each month.
  • Have a piggy bank. This one might sound weird, but it’s oddly motivating to see the money in your piggy bank grow. If you can get a clear piggy bank, that is the most motivation because you can see when you put those five, ten and twenty dollar bills in there. The more money that’s in your piggy bank, the more you’re motivated to fill it.
  • Automatic withdrawal from your pay cheque. When you get paid, set aside an amount of money that is automatically coming off the cheque. You’re not going to use it, you’re not going to spend it. It’s going towards your travel dollars. Whether it’s $20 per cheque or $100 dollars per cheque, telling yourself that you get zero access to that set amount every pay cheque can add up in a year.
  • Cut the luxuries. I’m talking about things like Netflix and Itunes Music and your subscription services. The average person has 3-4 of these, minimum, and if you cancel all of them that is hundreds of dollars in a year that you’re saving.
  • Don’t drink when you’re out. Going out to have alcohol, whether with your friends or your significant other, the markup on alcohol is ridiculous. If you like a nice glass of wine once in a while, do it with your friends at one of your home’s. You’re going to enjoy it more without the extra noise of a club or a bar, and, you’re going to save a lot of money when you’re not spending $14 on a glass of wine.
  • When you’re shopping – shop sales. I know this can sound awful to some people, but it can be really beneficial if you’re smart about the way you shop. We all have things we need in life, like a winter jacket or a new pair of shoes. Right now, on the North Face website you can purchase a winter jacket from last year’s collection for $125, rather than $500. This savings is solely because it’s last year’s coat. North Face jackets never go out of style, and honestly, no one’s going to know that it’s last year’s coat. Whereas you might have previously budgeted several hundred dollars for your winter jacket, you can now take that extra money and put it into your vacation fund, wear your new Northface coat and no one will be any the wiser.
  • Track your finances. This is the most important aspect of all. If you’re looking to save money for travelling, track your finances. Being able to see on paper, or an excel spreadsheet, where your money is being spent will help you to realize where you’re spending too much and where you can cut. After all, you are not going to become a millionaire over night, so, if you want to travel the world you need to know where you’re going to cut money from in order to put it into your travel budget.

As you’re saving for your trip and cutting money from other places in your budget, please remember for your own peace of mind that you need to treat yourself once in a while. Don’t cut everything from your life cold turkey in order to save for your trip, that will make you miserable. Buy yourself that chocolate bar on the day when you really need some chocolate. Just make sure that it’s a once in a while treat and not an every day treat.

Hopefully, if you’re smart about it, you’ll be sailing off into the sunset of a beautiful trip in no time. Because I am a firm believer that it’s far more important in life to collect experiences rather than things.

Go forth and travel the world.

Tips & tricks for smooth transitions through the airport.

As someone who’s been on a few thousand flights over the past 10 years, I’ve learned a few things about how to make the most annoying place on earth (aka the airport) as easy as possible when you need to get somewhere.

First and foremost – a very important thing to note – where at all possible, DO NOT BUY BLACK LUGGAGE. Everyone buys black luggage. If you want to identify yours when it’s coming down the conveyor belt, avoid the chance that random strangers will pull it off the belt thinking it’s their’s, or your luggage getting lost in general, don’t buy black luggage! Not to mention if your luggage does get lost the first thing they will ask you is “What does it look like?” If you say “Well it’s a black suitcase,” you’ll see the eyes roll. Everyone has black luggage.

As for the airport, here goes:

  1. Always check-in online. In this day and age where it costs for EVERYTHING, spending $50 for seat selection just seems like something I don’t want. But, here in Canada, you can check into your flights a full 24 hours early. And, if you’re one of the first people to check in, you’re assigned an aisle or window seat ahead of them assigning you a middle seat. So ALWAYS check-in online.
  2. Skip the jewelry when you’re getting dressed. (And belts) If it’s important to bring it, put it in a little baggy and slip it into your carry-on or suitcase. Then bring it out when the timing is right. By avoiding putting it on, you’ll avoid needing to take extra time in the security line taking it all off.
  3. Dress up to dress down. Combat boots are cute and all, but taking those bad-boys off to go through security to put back on immediately afterwards takes a considerable amount of time. Things like slip on shoes can, and will be, your best friend.
  4. Take a screenshot of your booking information/boarding pass. The screenshot on your phone will be a lot easier to access than trying to fumble through paperwork amidst everything else in your backpack/carry-on.
  5. Separate your electronics. This will make your time in the security line go much more smoothly and much faster.
  6. Figure out your liquids game before you get to the security line. Where at all possible, if you don’t have to bring liquids then don’t. But, if you must bring liquids, know the rules before you go. Don’t be that doh-head who needs their bag to get searched and have full-sized perfume and hand creams pulled out of it. I’ve seen a lot of times the TSA Agents be nice about this, but you can also get into a lot of trouble.
  7. Wear an item of clothing with a sports logo on it. This isn’t a certified fact, and I only do this in North American airports, but I have noticed on days when I am wearing certain jackets with sporting logos on them, the TSA agents will move me to the quicker line. Perhaps they like sports? Perhaps, they just think I’m some sort of coach and want to help me on my way. I’m not sure. But, when wearing the logo makes the security line shorter, I’m going to wear the logo.
  8. Bring an empty water bottle and fill it up inside of security. Buying water at the airport is no-bueno. I’ve paid upwards of $6.00 Canadian for a single bottle of water. Having a reusable water bottle with you can avoid a lot of unnecessary costs.
  9. Save your Starbucks rewards for the airport. It’s a well known fact of life that Starbucks costs 2-3 dollars more per drink when you’re at the airport. If you collect Starbucks rewards, save the free drinks for when you travel, for when you’re in the airport. And if you don’t collect Starbucks rewards, start collecting them. Seriously.
  10. When you’re travelling internationally add international data and roaming minutes to your cell phone plan. In the airport alone you can’t always rely on wi-fi in other parts of the world. If you’ve got the international data, you can still use your phone to help you get to where you need to be.
  11. Bring a phone charger. Always bring a phone charger. And, if you’re travelling internationally, bring a plug converter. You don’t want to find yourself in the Amsterdam airport, unable to speak the language, with a dead cell phone.
  12. Keep your money in your front pocket. Especially in busy airports, pickpocketing is a real issue. For guys that keep their wallets in their back pocket, put it in your front pocket while walking through the airport to avoid pickpocketing.
  13. Always arrive at your gate early. Why? Planes can leave early. I’s not a frequent occurrence, but they do leave early. You don’t want to be the doh-head that missed the flight because you were looking at overpriced magazines down the hall.
  14. Be kind. Don’t yell. Even when it’s frustrating. Even when someone pisses you off. You don’t want to find yourself in a foreign country where you cannot speak the language, with people unwilling to help you because you’ve been a tired, pissed off asshole. There was one instance in Frankfurt when the security guard was telling me to take off my shoe. I could not understand her because she was speaking German. Naturally, being Canadian, my response was “I’m sorry”. And then I said “English, English?” She called over the German police (at the time I was worried I was in trouble, but it turns out she was doing it because she knew they could speak English). The police officers were actually very kind to me. One of them told me I was very soft-spoken and told me thank you. Moral of the story – always be nice. Even when it’s annoying.
  15. Fly the flag. This is a big one, especially if you’re Canadian. Put a Canadian flag on your luggage, on your carry-on, on your backpack, etc… It’s a good conversation starter with strangers. There’s nothing cooler than striking up conversation with a badass human being half-way around the world and making your wait at the airport a little-less boring. And who knows, in this day of social media, perhaps you can stay in touch.